Respectful Insolence

So, after nearly two weeks of torturing myself trying to put together an R01-level grant on short notice and make it actually competitive, I’m finally free. The grant has been submitted (amazingly, the online submission process went through without a hitch), and, sleep-deprived but still hopped up on the Sudafed that kept the mucus membranes in my nasal passages from exploding outward at a high velocity, scattering watery goo everywhere.

Not a pretty sight when it happens, hence the Sudafed.

Fortunately, the pollen has subsided to the level where I am only mildly miserable, allowing my thoughts to turn to this blog’s weekly feature that it can’t do without. Yes, indeed, it’s time for some woo. I figured that, after spending almost every waking moment (and sometimes even non-waking moments) thinking about rigorous science and how to persuade the reviewers that my science is worthy of more funding, I could use a break. And what better break from rationality than some serious woo? Thanks to Ben Goldacre, I found just the rich mother lode I needed, so much so that I really only intend to dwell on a small part of it.

We’re talking all homeopathy, all the time, baby!

But not just any homeopathy. No, we’re talking about the journal Homeopathy, which has devoted all of its most recent issue to articles on the “memory of water.” There’s such a rich vein of woo there that it is far beyond the space and time I have here to devote to it, but, thanks to Ben, you can read it for yourself even if you don’t have institutional subscriptions that allow you to access Homeopathy.

I was half-tempted to look at this article, The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succussion, by David J. Ainck, but I decided that the mathematical woo there is probably better addressed by my blog buddy Mark over at Good Math, Bad Math. One bit, however, is just too tasty not to quote, though. Consider it a little wafer to cleanse the palate before diving into the even more outrageous woo:

How does succussion raise the concentration by a factor of H (typically H=100)? The answer depends on what the active ingredient is alleged to be. For the nano-bubble hypothesis, a nano-bubble might, during the pressure wave of succussion, organize the adjacent H2O into another copy of the same nano-bubble, and both bubbles might survive as structural features after the pressure wave passes.

For the silica hypothesis, silica might be released into solution as Si(OH)4 monomers by the mechanical agitation of succussion, and the specific silica nanocrystals might catalyze the formation of more copies of themselves out of the newly released monomers. It is beyond the scope of this article to assess or justify whether such notions are plausible.

Actually, it’s beyond the scope of all the books ever written to provide a scientifically plausible hypothesis for how homeopathy “works,” although this issue of Homeopathy certainly did appear to impress one homeopath who has been known in the past to take the occasional swipe at skeptics like Ben Goldacre who point out how scientifically bogus the entire concept is, even at one point comparing him to Lord Voldemort. Heck, she’s even taken a swipe at Orac himself over an earlier edition of YFDoW.

In actuality, one mathematical point that I’d really love to see addressed about homeopathy is what it is that’s so special about the number 100? After all, nearly homeopathic dilution is done by a series of dilutions of 1:100 and succussions (shakings). Each 100-fold dilution is called a “C.” Consequently, a 20C dilution has been diluted 100-fold 20 times, for a total of a 1:1040 dilution. But there are a number of ways to get to a dilution of 1:1040 that don’t involve the number 100? So what is magical about the number 100 and why do we never see homeopaths using any other dilution step to reach their desired dilution? For example, a frequent homeopathic dilution seen is 30C (1:1060). Why thirty 100-fold dilutions? Why not reach 1:1060 through 100 thirty-fold dilutions? Or fifteen 10,000-fold dilutions? Why–

Hold on, I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney. I’d better stop with this and move on.

The woo gets better. True, the last bit had many impressive-looking equations, which is always a good thing for making your woo appear scientific, but another article, The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions by Otto Weingärtner kicks the woo up a notch:

When we talk about the active ingredient of ultramolecular dilutions as used in homeopathy, we mean a non-material quality which–according to the principles of homeopathy–can be traced back to a substance. Moreover, this quality is understood to be able to make the symptoms of a patient disappear when administered via a vehicle. Many people call this quality ‘information’.

And there are some who call me…Tim, too.

But if that’s not enough, just read a little further, and there’s more:

In physics, fields are inevitably linked to interaction between material partners via interaction-particles. Photons, for instance, are the interaction-particles of the electromagnetic field. Thus, potentization as well as treatment with potencies–procedures that implicitly do not depend on matter-matter-interaction–are not primarily based on physical fields. Both procedures, however, suggest mind-matter and matter-mind correlations.

  1. Neither a specific chemical nor a specific physical property of the original substance is known to be transferred during the preparation of potencies although mother tinctures, which of course contain many molecules of the original substance, are mandatory for a starting point of this procedure. Potentization here appears to embody a procedure that relates matter to mind.
  2. No common donor-acceptor-mechanism is known to be responsible for the effects of potencies. Treatment appears to embody a procedure that relates the ‘mind of matter’ to the ‘mind of illness’. The latter of course itself is strongly related to biological matter and is often looked upon as a relationship belonging to psychosomatics.

Are these correlations better described by interaction mechanisms that are not linked to particles? A possible alternative is non-local correlations, known from specific effects in quantum physics.

It looks like we’re back to quantum homeopathy. Of course, whenever there’s quantum homeopathy, there’s one man who can’t be far away. Yes, I’m talking about the man who’s done more to torture quantum theory to make it appear to justify the pseudoscience of homeopathy that any man alive, indeed, so much so that he was the man who gave me the inspiration for Your Friday Dose of Woo and provided the fodder for the very first article and later produced the quantum homeopathic gyroscopic circle.

It’s Lionel Milgrom of course, and he’s produced a doozy for this special issue of Homeopathy, entitled Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy.

I bow before the Master of Homeopathic Woo, as he begins:

Despite increasingly sterile debates over ‘whether’ homeopathy works, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ have yet to be seriously addressed by science. One need not look far to see why.

Formerly a successful allergy researcher, Jacques Benveniste spent the last 20 years of his life out of the scientific mainstream because of his fascination with the ‘Memory of Water’.3 Despite democratic appearances, when it comes to dealing with what it considers ‘heretical’ (eg, homeopathy), science can be as narrow-minded, unforgiving, and vicious as any inquisition. Disregarding the burning stakes of peer opprobrium however, some are seeking answers to the question of how homeopathy might be possible.

Yes! It’s the Galileo Gambit and claiming persecution, all in the first two paragraphs! Even better, Milgrom seems to be in essence conceding that there is no good evidence that homeopathy works. After all, he explicitly states that some are “seeking answers to the question of how homeopathy might be possible.” That’s the problem with Milgrom (and, for that matter, pretty much all the homeopathy “theorists” who publish long-winded screeds of Orac-ian length full of thought experiments about the “memory of water” and how homeopathy “might” work without actually providing any evidence that homeopathy does work! They put the cart before the horse in a big way! After all, why should scientists bother to address the “how” and “why” of how homeopathy “works” if there is no good evidence in the first place that it does, in fact, work? Not surprisingly, this latest Milgrom opus is no different. Just watch as Milgrom discusses the two main types of “theories” for how homeopathy “works”:

Two types of hypothetical ‘mechanism’ are under consideration. Labelled ‘local’ and ‘non-local’, they depend, respectively, on conventional scientific positivism, or appeal to generalised quantum theoretical concepts of complementarity and entanglement. Local hypotheses envisage homeopathic remedies behaving in a way similar to any other medicine, ie, ‘pharmacologically’. The problem is that most homeopathic remedies are diluted out of molecular existence. In order therefore to comply with the causal principles of positivist science, a mechanism has to be envisaged by which some kind of information transfer (usually thought of as electromagnetic) can occur to a molecular substrate (eg, water), via homeopathy’s unique method of remedy production. Involving successive iterations of dilution followed by violent agitation collectively known as succussion, it is this information transfer to the solvent which has been called the Memory of Water (MoW).

Non-local hypotheses, are concerned less with the remedy per se, proposing generalised forms of quantum entanglement as the basis for homeopathy’s efficacy. They suggest instantaneous, acausal correlations are somehow established between various combinations of patient, practitioner, and remedy, ultimately leading to an observed change in the patient’s state of health. These ideas are in their infancy and even more controversial than MoW: indeed, to many the idea that quantum theory might be applicable in our macroscopic domain is anathema. The received conventional wisdom is that non-deterministic quantum theory describes the world of sub-atomic particles, atoms and molecules, while deterministic Newtonian (classical) and Einsteinian (relativistic) theories are sufficient for the macroscopic world of material objects. Non-local hypotheses however, have the advantage of being generalisable outside homeopathy to other healing disciplines.

“Instantaneous, acausal correlations are somehow established between various combinations of patient, practitioner, and remedy”? No wonder he’s The Man when it comes to quantum homeopathic woo! Of course, the wag in me wants to point out that the reason that the non-local hypotheses that Milgrom uses to “explain” homeopathy are “generalizable” to other healing disciplines is because the “healing disciplines” for the justification of which woomeisters like to invoke quantum theory and other nonlocal principles are, by and large, just as much a load of crap as homeopathy.

Quite frankly, the reason Milgrom’s article defeats all other woo in this issue of Homeopathy is because it distills down the essence of all of his arguments about homeopathy, including abusing quantum theory and his concept of the “vital force” as a quantum gyroscope upon which homeopathy can act. If you want a summary of Milgrom’s amazing woo all in one place, this is the place to be. Then, if your brain hasn’t exploded, you can then proceed to read his woo in more depth. What I find more amusing is that now Milgrom adds the one element that’s been missing from his woo, the one element that makes it the perfect woo. Yes, I’m talking about a postmodernist attack on those nasty scientists who don’t accept homeopathy:

Most people assume that science starts from secure reproducible observations out of which ‘facts’ about the world are distilled, an ideal enshrined in logical positivism. Its core beliefs are that scientific questions can be answered completely objectively; that experiments allow scientists to compare theory directly with facts; and that science is a sure route to ‘truth’. In this respect, it is scientifically established ‘evidence’ that is now supposed to provide the only basis for the ‘facts’ on which medical decisions are to be based, regardless of practitioners’ empirical ‘hands on’ experience and intuition.[12] and [13]

However, since the second half of the 20th century, logical positivism has been under sustained attack as being too simplistic from Post-Modernist philosophies of science. There is no such thing as unbiased observation free of any sociological or cultural conditioning, even in science and even under the most stringent experimental circumstances. Therefore, our acceptance or rejection of ‘evidence’ is also open to serious question. Our tendency is to reject evidence which does not fit with currently-held theory. Consequently, positive results from even the highest standard scientific trials are rejected by those who will not accept homeopathy’s claim that remedies diluted out of molecular existence might have any effect. For black swans, read homeopathy.

Yes! No good woo is complete without a little postmodernism thrown into the mix, the better to call critics fascists who want to impose their narrative on the brave “outside of the mainstream” scientists. (And, of course the woomeisters’ narratives are just as valid as the scientific narrative, at least according to the woomeisters.) Even better, he invokes “quantum entanglement” and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to explain why high quality randomized clinical trials of homeopathy have been negative:

One application of the PPR entanglement metaphor I have described is to provide a rationale for why RCTs of homeopathy often return equivocal results.45 It suggests the double blind RCT ‘collapses’ the three-way patient-practitioner-remedy entangled state in a way analogous to that by which observation collapses a particle’s wave function in the Copenhagen Interpretation of orthodox quantum theory. Thus, while unobserved, a particle exists in an indeterminate state; its evolution in time expressed as a wave function. Observation causes the wave function to ‘collapse’ to a particle whose complementary position and momentum are related via Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The profound meaning of this is that the act of observation in part creates that which is observed. Or, even more starkly, “The price of knowledge is the loss of an underlying ontological physical reality”. In a similar way, the observational procedure of the RCT may ‘collapse’ the three-way entangled state, leading to the loss of the underlying homeopathic effect, a therapeutic equivalent of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

Wow. Just wow. Milgrom has outdone himself. Not only has he summarized his two greatest accomplishments in woo, quantum homeopathy and the Vf (vital force) quantum gyrosocope, but he’s added a bulletproof woo rationale to explain why RCTs have consistently failed to demonstrate any efficacy due to homeopathy by invoking the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. I’m not entirely sure how the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle could explain this difficulty, but it sure sounds all physics-y and impressive, doesn’t it? I suppose if homeopathy is claimed to “work” through a quantum entanglement of the practitioner, patient, and remedy, then it follows, in woo world, at least, that trying to observe this entanglement might affect it somehow. After all, in Milgrom’s world, where metaphor is the scientific argument, you might as well carry the metaphor to its conclusion, no matter how misguided and warped the metaphor is.

In a way, I’m glad that Homeopathy put all these articles in one issue. If you really want to see the intellectual bankruptcy–and, yes, outright bullshit–of homepaths and homeopathy, it’s all here on display for all to see. I will give them credit for one thing, though.

Some of their woo is really entertaining.

Comments

  1. #1 Luna_the_cat
    August 17, 2007

    Yow. “The profound meaning of this is that the act of observation in part creates that which is observed. Or, even more starkly, “The price of knowledge is the loss of an underlying ontological physical reality”.” My brain hurts now.

    Incidentally, you have my entire, wholehearted sympathy on the hayfever thing, given that I have wanted to spend this last week and a bit wanting to sand my own face off. But there may be hope; maybe I can go to Angel school, and find out how to get my angels top protect me from allergies.

  2. #2 vlad
    August 17, 2007

    The blatant abuse of badly understood principles. While I can see questionably justifiable logic to his argument about RCT one has to make an assumption. That the homeopath being used is actually himself part of the cure. To check this couldn’t you just blind the homeopath too (Lets not take my words too literally).

    I’d think it would be easy to check this by having someone else make the 10, 20 or 30C solutions. The person making the solution knows if it’s plecebo or not. The homeopath does not. Make sure the homeopath thinks he/she is not in the plecebo group. Then take a look at the results. It would also be nice if the mixing was done by a machine which will remove the mix makers bias from the equation. Look an RTC design in 5 minutes by a lowly engineer which I think would prove conclusively one way or the other. Yeah I know even EBM staff would probably poke huge holes in the design.

    Depending on which school of quantum your coming from I have seen the Heisenberg uncertainty principle explained in two ways.
    1) That the act of observing something will change it. Most people working with sensors know this is true. Leakage from the tip of an ions selective probe in a very small container.
    2) That something is literally spread across a mirade of possible states until a human observes it (Schroedinger cat).

  3. #3 _Arthur
    August 17, 2007

    I suppose, with homeopathic entanglement, a patient might be completely cured as observed by himself and his woo water peddler, and be observed as still sick by his doctor ?

  4. #4 PalMD
    August 17, 2007

    Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to parse through this journal for days, and I have a headache.

  5. #5 PalMD
    August 17, 2007

    As I understand Uncertainty, a particle literally does not have both momentum and position simultaneously. Once it is measure, one can be defined. But my physics is a long way behind me.

  6. #6 Brendan S
    August 17, 2007

    I have always wondered.

    Do these people actually believe what they preach? The whole ‘Double-Blind tests kill the cure’ concept is a pretty high-order notion. I find it somewhat hard to believe that someone who can come up with that explanation, which actually works if you accept the mechanism described, can actually believe in MoW.

    So, are they really out for your best interests (by charging you way too much for water that someone showed a picture of chemicals)? Or are they con-men who 100% know what they’re doing, and don’t care?

  7. #7 Charles
    August 17, 2007

    Oh man Orac, I feel for you.

    I just moved with my wife to the Netherlands, and am currently suffering a nasty allergic attack.

    The big problem is that diphenhydramine and psuedoephedrine, to the best of my knowledge are not available here.

    Labeling on medical packaging here seems more lax. It took me forever to figure out the active ingredient in what turned out to be a box of generic loratidine.

    It does seem like homeopathic and herbal remedies are quite available here, and no clear way of distinguishing them to a non dutch speaker.

  8. #8 Bob, DVM
    August 17, 2007

    Vital force as a quantum gyroscope? My head hurts, too.

    “What’s all this molecule stuff?”

    –Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh, in Bull Durham

  9. #9 khan
    August 17, 2007

    They suggest instantaneous, acausal correlations are somehow established between various combinations of patient, practitioner, and remedy, ultimately leading to an observed change in the patient’s state of health.

    If we’ve now reached faith healing, why not cut out the middle man (all the shaking and stirring)?

  10. #10 Thony C.
    August 17, 2007

    I have a very serious question; does anybody anywhere in the world actually read this crap and if so is this person (or could it be that there is more than one?) actually living outside of a lunatic asylum?

    (In case anybody misunderstands my question I am of course referring to the journal under consideration and not Orac’s excellent blog!)

  11. #11 Joe
    August 17, 2007

    Orac,

    Why not take a homeopathic allergy cure, i.e., a cure without side effects. They used to offer “tears of a maiden,” perhaps they still do. I doubt tears are gender-specific.

  12. #12 Harry
    August 17, 2007

    Milgrom wrote, “These ideas are in their infancy and even more controversial than MoW: indeed, to many the idea that quantum theory might be applicable in our macroscopic domain is anathema.”

    First things first: quantum theory IS applicable to our macroscopic world. The theory that energy is quantized on the level of Planck’s constant does explain many of the observables in the macroscopic world, such as the emission spectrum given off from a blackbody and the colors emitted from LEDs and other lighting sources. What Milgrom wants to do is change values (and equations) such that the macroscopic world undergoes the same counterintuitive (or should I say “non-positivist”?) behavior that is only observable in the nano world. That’s not being in line with quantum theory, that’s destroying it.

    I mean, instead of randomly conflating the properties of the nano world with our own, why not choose to conflate the properties of things on the astronomical scale with our world? He could change the value of the gravitational constant (let’s call it the new homeopathic gravitational constant) and say that the homeopath (or the essences in the homeopathic remedy) pulls out the illnesses from the patient due to some sort of quantum gravitational homeopathic force.

  13. #13 Ange
    August 17, 2007

    The ultra high-level woo should come with a warning to take your migraine medication prior to consumption. Truly breathtaking.

  14. #14 Melissa G
    August 17, 2007

    I would like to sentence anyone convicted of Improper Use of Quantum Physics With Intent To BS to a quantum smack upside the head. Does it hit??? Does it miss??? Oop, I’m observing! ::smack::

  15. #15 Dangerous Bacon
    August 17, 2007

    I always thought the “three-way entangled state” was what happened after a major spill at Skyline Chili.

  16. #16 Crys
    August 17, 2007

    Orac,
    My head hurts when I read the arguments in favor of homeopathy. I applaud you for going through the “scientific” publications of homeopathy to expose the fallacies of their arguments. It is no menial task to read an entire article on woo.

  17. #17 Harry
    August 17, 2007

    Sorry to double post, but you served up such a heaping portion of woo today that I couldn’t fit it all on one plate…

    If a double blind test somehow “collapses” the “three-way patient-practitioner-remedy entangled state”, then how can a homeopathic remedy purchased at your local hippy mart work? In that case, there is no conscious “entanglement” between the practitioner and patient. Yet the homeopath still claims it will work.

    But maybe _Arthur hit on something more important in his comment. Milgrom could do the most handwaving if he instead focused on the poisonous act of observation and how it affects the results. OF COURSE homeopathy doesn’t stand up to clinical trials because the “entangled state” “collapses” once you try to determine whether or not the patient is sick! If all us pea-brained scientists would stop trying to look for “results”, then the homeopath would be able to obtain a much higher success rate!

  18. #18 Michael Patrick
    August 17, 2007

    I’m pretty new to the world of woo (hey, that rhymes!). But I wonder if the homeopaths have thought about what other memories the water they use for dilution might carry? I mean, who knows where that stuff has been before they start mixing their cocktails. If water truly does have a memory, it seems to me that said memory might contain thousands of years worth of confounding factors in one test tube of the stuff…

  19. #19 David D.G.
    August 17, 2007

    In physics, fields are inevitably linked to interaction between material partners via interaction-particles. Photons, for instance, are the interaction-particles of the electromagnetic field. Thus, potentization as well as treatment with potencies–procedures that implicitly do not depend on matter-matter-interaction–are not primarily based on physical fields. Both procedures, however, suggest mind-matter and matter-mind correlations.

    Orac, I think you meant for this paragraph to be included in the blockquote that follows it. At least, I really, really hope so.

    Wow, that is a high-grade mine of BS you’ve discovered, Orac. Thanks for sharing.

    ~David D.G.

  20. #20 Bob O'H
    August 17, 2007

    Quite frankly, the reason Milgrom’s article defeats all other woo in this issue of Homeopathy is because it distills down the essence of all of his arguments about homeopathy…

    Ironic, really.

    Bob

  21. #21 Ahistoricality
    August 17, 2007

    Our tendency is to reject evidence which does not fit with currently-held theory. Consequently, positive results from even the highest standard scientific trials are rejected by those who will not [delete: accept] question homeopathy’s claim that remedies diluted out of molecular existence might have any effect.

    There. That’s better.

  22. #22 Sastra
    August 17, 2007

    Milgrom’s postmodernist attack on the value of scientific studies seems a bit self-defeating. First, he sets up science as the “objective” gold standard. Then, he knocks it down as being hopelessly subjective and biased. Then he complains that “positive results from even the highest standard scientific trials are rejected by those who will not accept homeopathy’s claim that remedies diluted out of molecular existence might have any effect.”

    So homeopathy has met all the scientific standards just fine but it’s being unfairly ignored? Or scientific standards are worthless so you should ignore that homeopathy doesn’t meet them? Which is it?

  23. #23 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 18, 2007

    PalMD:

    As I understand Uncertainty, a particle literally does not have both momentum and position simultaneously. Once it is measure, one can be defined. But my physics is a long way behind me.

    Here’s what I can recall from physics 10? from way back when. Particles can absolutely have both position and momentum. After all, (non-relativistic) momentum is just mass times velocity. What Heisenberg Uncertainity says is that both position and momentum cannot be simultaneously measured with great accuracy. If you manage to determine the position of the particle with great accuracy, then the (simultaneous) measurement of momentum must necessarily be inaccurate. And vice versa.

    It can be stated as –
    (Error in position Measurement)*(Error in momentum measurement) >= (plank’s constant)/(4*pi).

    Plank’s constant (=6.626 *10^-34 Joule sec) is small enough that Heisenberg Uncertainity makes no difference to macroscopic objects in most cases, while mattering a great deal to measurements of atomic scale phenomena.

  24. #24 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 18, 2007

    Observation causes the wave function to ‘collapse’ to a particle whose complementary position and momentum are related via Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The profound meaning of this is that the act of observation in part creates that which is observed. Or, even more starkly, “The price of knowledge is the loss of an underlying ontological physical reality”. In a similar way, the observational procedure of the RCT may ‘collapse’ the three-way entangled state, leading to the loss of the underlying homeopathic effect, a therapeutic equivalent of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

    I have to agree with Harry in that Milgrom hasn’t extracted all the Woo from the quantum-Woo mine yet. Why not take the argument a (small) step further and claim that its not just those pesky RCT demanding Skeptics who ‘collapse’ the entanglement. I mean, even if a patient tries to figure out if s/he feels better, thats a measurement too. It should also lead to ‘collapse’ of the ‘entangled state’ and possibly prompt patient death. This leads to the perfect uber-Woo. It works 100% of the time, but only if nobody (including the patient) questions it.

    Reminds me of Prolix the Soothsayer from Asterix – “My predictions have stopped working because there is a skeptic in the room.” (Sorry, I couldn’t find a link or video for non-Asterix fans.)

  25. #25 JMG3Y
    August 18, 2007

    I suspect that by far the most important and powerful extract is that from the wallet of the gullible and, more criminally, the desperate.

    Were that not the case, such practitioners would likely manifest far more interest in the strength of empirical evidence and expend far less energy on justification through endless speculation.

  26. #26 Antiquated Tory
    August 18, 2007

    Stagyar et al,
    IANAPhysicist but I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject. You are quite right of course that a particle can have a momentum and a position at the same time. When the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle says that the more accurately you measure momentum the less accurately you measure position for a quantum particle, for ‘measure’ read ‘magnify to the classical level.’ Just to clarify, it isn’t a problem with limited accuracy of measuring instruments or anything like that, but is a fundamental aspect of the relationship between momentum and position at quantum scales. When the wavefunction of position state is a nice delta function, meaning a single spike representing the one and only possible value, the wavefunction of the momentum state is a helix, meaning all values are equally likely. If you transform the momentum state wavefunction to a nice single spike, the position state wavefunction becomes a helix.
    Really, with stuff like this around, who needs woo?

    Orac, I just wanted to mention a visit last summer I made to an old friend just over the border in Germany. I had a horrid allergy attack, runny nose and sneezing my head off. It was the weekend so no pharmacies. My friend told me however that his girlfriend was a licensed homeopathic practitioner and could fix me up, as she had a travel kit of fine remedies with her. I politely declined.

    What is it with the Germans and woo, anyway? We were in Munich a few weeks ago and the pharmacy opposite the hotel had leeches. LEECHES. Not for display, either, but as a traditional therapy. They also have gone for biodynamic food in a big way. (The Guardian’s verdict: mad as a badger)

  27. #27 akibare
    August 18, 2007

    Q: How many quantum physicists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: If you know how many, you don’t know where the light bulb is.

  28. #28 Felix Kasza
    August 19, 2007

    Dear Orac:

    Why thirty 100-fold dilutions? Why not reach 1:1060 through 100 thirty-fold dilutions?

    Um, perhaps because 10030 <> 30100?

  29. #29 Oraco
    August 19, 2007

    Brain fart. That’s all I can say.

  30. #30 JMG3Y
    August 19, 2007

    I figure that under homeopathic “theory” because a sufficient proportion of the components of most every molecule on the surface of the earth have been around long enough that they have bumped into one another at one time or another, electrostatically, thermally or covalently, all I gotta do is take another breath and drink another glass of water and, Voila, I’m cured! Again.

  31. #31 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 19, 2007

    I propose that these guys are ripe for a Sokal type hoax exposing their BS. Does anyone here feel up to the task?

  32. #32 S.H.A.M. Scam Sam
    August 20, 2007

    Gentlemen (and Ladies?),

    I can’t type, so I hope you’ll appreciate the trouble I’m going through to explain this to you – collecting the links, etc. – and take into account that I am a layman, so my explanations will have to involve pop culture references, and the like, to make my points.

    I know my reputation here isn’t the best, because of my over-the-top behavior, but – as an average guy who has wrestled with what most of you have called brain-hurting info, while in the heat of a homeopathic death and divorce – I hope Orac’s posting of this particular woo (along with the insight I’m about to explain) will give just a bit of clue to why I can seem a bit off-the-hook when warning you of the dangers inherent to The Enemies of Reason (Thank you, Prof. Dawkins, for that label/title: it works quite well for me.). I promise to be as calm and rational as possible while we discuss this:

    BrendonS: Do these people actually believe what they preach?,…are they really out for your best interests (by charging you way too much for water that someone showed a picture of chemicals)? Or are they con-men who 100% know what they’re doing, and don’t care?

    O.K. – let’s start here – this (below) is what I think is a revealing quote from Camille Paglia:

    “Religion as metaphysics or cosmic vision is no longer valued except in the New Age movement, to which I still strongly subscribe, despite its sometimes outlandish excesses. As a professed atheist, I detest the current crop of snide manifestos against religion written by professional cynics, flâneurs and imaginatively crimped and culturally challenged scientists. “

    I find this quote revealing because Ms. Paglia is claiming to “strongly subscribe” in something most believers won’t admit to others: They are approaching everything – including us, with our “snide” logical approach to things – Metaphysically. They are Occultists. They are people who have brainwashed themselves into believing they live “on a higher plane”.

    What does that mean? From what I’ve read – and, believe me, I’ve read a lot of new age/occult lit – the best way to explain it is with a combination of references that you are to try and combine in your own minds:

    Medieval thinking. Like in Ken Russel’s excellent film, The Devils. What we call “alchemy” comes naturally to people who think like this.

    Eastern thinking. Like in George Harrison’s Beatle songs, or the “I am he as you are he as you are we” line from I Am The Walrus.

    And thoughts of transmutation (I think that’s the right word) much like the “spiritual beings” in (believe it or not) The Pirates of the Caribbean movies; the ones who live forever, shifting from corporal to skeletal/spiritual, at will.

    I shit you not: That’s metaphysical/occult thinking. And they think like these three examples, combined, all the time.

    ThonyC: does anybody anywhere in the world actually read this crap and if so is this person (or could it be that there is more than one?) actually living outside of a lunatic asylum?

    You betcha they do, with all their hearts. They believe in this way of thinking – and the goals such thinking dictates – as much as an Al Qaeda member believes in his 72 virgins and what it takes to get ‘em. Think of it as a neurological disorder: It doesn’t matter that whoever puts out Homeopathy Magazine is functional enough to put out a magazine. It doesn’t matter that the homeopaths who write the articles are functional enough to write the articles. And it doesn’t matter that the people who use homeopathy are functional enough to hold down jobs so they can buy homeopathic products – this is how they think. You can punch holes in their “theories” all day long and all it will indicate to them is you don’t believe.

    Why are they stuck on the number 100? Lazy thinking and, probably, the “hidden” symbolism of Numerology. Students of the Occult live in a world of symbolism that’s right in front of our eyes, but we’re not aware of, because we’re to busy trying to do dumb shit, like understand the real world. Ever had someone explain the “real meaning” – which is usually wrong – behind the pyramid, with the eye, on a dollar bill? Think of it like that: Students of the Occult live in a world of such symbols (like lie lines – sp?) and see them everywhere, thinking they reveal an entire universe that’s made just for them – forever.

    Damn – it’s late and I just got off work so I’m tired – I’ll write more on this tomorrow:

    I’ve got the day off.

  33. #33 Luna_the_cat
    August 20, 2007

    Thony C. asks:

    I have a very serious question; does anybody anywhere in the world actually read this crap and if so is this person (or could it be that there is more than one?) actually living outside of a lunatic asylum?

    Yes. My mother, for one. Let it be noted, however, that my mother is well down the road towards senility. My sister-in-law is another, and I’m not sure what HER excuse is.

  34. #35 S.H.A.M. Scam Sam
    August 20, 2007

    So’s this:

    http://www.tryitoneverything.com/trailer.shtml

    I want to show these guys how to make a fist.

  35. #36 Danny
    September 24, 2007

    Milgrom’s arguments are also totally irrelevant to the general idea of the memory of water anyway.

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